Scour any catalogue and you will see descriptions of varieties which wax lyrical about the flavour –the decadent pleasure of eating strawberries warmed by the morning sun, picking nectar-sweet gages from the tree and eating them before you’ve even got back to the kitchen door. This is undoubtedly a major part of why we grow our own fruit, but there is a whole new world of tastes and textures available to the home cook who grows their own fruit, instead of relying on the choice from the supermarkets.
There are several benefits from using fruit for cooking rather than just fresh. The obvious one is that it increases storage time. While some apples will happily store for several months, there are many that won’t. Cook them and freeze them, and they will all store for up to six months. Jamming and bottling will increase this time limit still further, so you can enjoy the flavours of summer right through the dark days of winter and into the following year. Cooking and preserving also help deal with the problems of summer gluts – never mind courgettes, even with the best will in the world there are only so many gooseberries I can eat in one go without experiencing serious unwanted consequences.
Finally, here in the UK we are not blessed with long days of hot sunshine for most of the year. The short growing season (and cold winters) means we have to grow a lot of fruit that is slightly sour and needs cooking, and probably the addition of a little sugar to turn it into a tasty treat. So this month it’s time to explore the varieties to watch out for if lockdown has released your inner Gordon Ramsay, or if you were already a candidate for Star Baker.
THE BRAMLEY CONUNDRUM
I’ll start with my own personal bugbear – the ubiquitous ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ cooking apple. Never mind that it’s the only cooking apple people have ever heard of, and it is widely considered to be the best cooker bar none. It’s not. Not even close. There are many fine culinary apples available for you to grow at home, which will almost certainly be better suited to your needs than a Bramley. You just don’t know about them yet.
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